Texas Motor Speedway Is Open Under New Management

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 25 2022

NASCAR is in Fort Worth this weekend, racing at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – Mark Faber is channeling his inner Dallas Cowboys history in a bid to “de-couch” the fan base at Texas Motor Speedway.

It’s a complicated to-do list for Faber, TMS’ third chief executive, at a critical juncture in the history of “The Great American Speedway.” TMS will operate during its 27th season in 2023 with only one NASCAR Cup Series weekend for the first time since 2004. 

Marcus G. Smith, president and CEO of parent company Speedway Motorsports, announced Sept. 8 that NASCAR’s All-Star Race was being moved from TMS to historic North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in May 2023. That ended the specialty event’s two-year run in the competitive Dallas-Fort Worth sports market amid tepid fan response.

As unveiled on Sept. 14, TMS will play host to a single NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series Playoff weekend on Sept. 23-24, 2023. The major event schedule will open with a combined NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NTT IndyCar Series weekend April 1-2. That April 2 race date will be the first in a new “multi-year partnership” with sanctioning body INDYCAR.

Confirmation of the 2023 schedule capped Faber’s experiences since beginning his duties as TMS Executive Vice President and General Manager on Aug. 22.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Faber, a 62-year-old native of Albuquerque, N.M. “I’ve been here for just a couple of weeks so I wasn’t really involved in decision-making or discussions on the (All-Star Race) move. We’re disappointed that we don’t get the All-Star Race back. We want as much content as we can get, but we had it two years here. So, we understand what NASCAR’s doing by kind of going back to the roots for the 75th anniversary celebration and going to North Wilkesboro Speedway.”

Faber joined Speedway Motorsports following a 17-year tenure with AEG, one of the world’s leading sports and live entertainment companies. Faber has replaced Rob Ramage, who was promoted to Speedway Motorsports Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Deputy Counsel roughly one year after succeeding Eddie Gossage, TMS’ first chief executive and promoter extraordinaire.

“This is a return home for us,” said Faber, a temporary resident of the track’s Lone Star Towers condominiums while relocating his family from Las Vegas. Faber’s wife, Holly, is a native of Abilene who graduated from Texas Tech and Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas. They are the parents of daughter Megan, 26, and son Drew, 23. Both college graduates, the Faber children were born at Baylor Hospital in downtown Dallas.

“The Dallas-Fort Worth area we left 17 years ago is much different, but we were looking for the right opportunity to come back home and this is the right opportunity,” said Faber, who attained his undergrad degrees in political science and history and MBA at Kansas University.

In his role as Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships for T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas since 2014, Faber led a team responsible for securing high-revenue, long-term partners for naming rights, founding partners and premium inventory including suites, loge boxes and club seating. T-Mobile Arena is home to the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights.

Smith, the 49-year-old son of Speedway Motorsports founder and NASCAR Hall of Famer O. Bruton Smith, immediately tasked Faber with stirring up interest in this weekend’s NASCAR Playoffs. The two-day program featured Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300, opening race of the Xfinity Series Playoffs, and Sunday afternoon’s Cup Series AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500. The 18th annual fall Cup race in Cowtown is the opening race of the Playoffs Round of 12.

“Look, we’ve got a big race weekend (booked) and my eyes are open, my ears are open,” said Faber, who has inherited a staff of 70 fulltime employees. “I’m just trying to assimilate and gather as much information and knowledge as I can on motorsports and this iconic facility.”

Smith declined to answer questions sent via email on the change in leadership from Ramage to Faber, including attendance figures on Ramage’s watch, when the replacement search began and how many candidates were interviewed. Faber said his interview process began “several weeks” ago via phone calls.

Faber said Ramage’s relatively brief time as TMS’ boss was not a red-flag. “Not at all,” Faber said. “Rob’s got a great legal counsel background and I think they needed some help at the corporate level. I don’t know all the background details, but Rob’s been tremendous in transitioning me to here.

“Our goal is just to fill it up the best we can _ fill up the grandstands, fill up the infield. When I was brought on-board there were no specific, ‘You gotta do this on numbers or that.’ It’s just come in here and utilize a different set of optics that I bring from my time at AEG and the other places I’ve been and see what we can do to have great events, enhance the guest experience and have fun for the whole family.”

Faber pointed to his experiences from the earliest days of the Jerry Jones-Jimmy Johnson Era of the Cowboys. Faber was ticket manager for the Orange Bowl Committee in Miami when he joined the Cowboys in 1989. Faber’s six-year period with “America’s Team” began as sales and syndication coordinator for Dallas Cowboys Television Productions followed by a promotion to Vice President of Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Sales and Marketing.

Ironically, Faber recalled completing the interview process at the Cowboys former Valley Ranch world headquarters on the day Jones and Johnson pulled the trigger on the blockbuster trade that sent running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a haul of players and draft choices in support of rookie quarterback Troy Aikman. 

That campaign also featured “Casting Call Tuesdays” at Valley Ranch for free-agent players on future NFL Hall of Fame Coach Johnson’s revolving-door roster. “That was certainly an interesting time _ 1989 to 1995,” Faber said. “I was 1-15 season (in ‘89) to Super Bowl wins (1992, 1993, 1995) and the Jones family treated my family great.

“Those were some fun days. Those were the days, of ‘why not?’_ know what I mean? People would say, ‘Well, we don’t do that that way in the National Football League.’ And we would say, ‘Well, why not?’ and try new things. A lot of things that are part of the NFL today are a tribute to what Jerry and the Jones family and several of us tried as something different.”

Similarly, Faber said management of any brick-and-mortar sports and entertainment facility is faced with broadening its fan experience in an effort to become “younger” and more diverse.

Ramage was up-front about his desire to attract Hispanic and African-American fans to TMS, and to make them feel welcome. Faber said that parallels with a variety of promotions staged at T-Mobile Arena.

“Absolutely. In Vegas we would have specific events targeted for Hispanic fans that would be concerts,” Faber said. “Same thing with African-American fans for concerts, sporting events, all different types of events. So I’m coming in here and saying, ‘OK, what other type of events could we have here that will appeal to all different types of groups?’ You know, we put a big premium on diversity, equity and inclusion here. That’s TMS, that’s Speedway Motorsports, that’s NASCAR as well.”

To that end, Faber and staff kicked-off the race weekend and celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month with a press conference and media availability Friday morning with Playoffs contender Daniel Suarez at the Mexican Consulate in Dallas. Driver of the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Suarez is the only Mexican-born driver to earn a victory in Cup.

Faber was joined by Francisco de la Torre, Consul General of Consulate of Mexico in Dallas, in honoring Suarez and chatting-up the weekend schedule.

A few hours later in Fort Worth, Faber oversaw launch of TMS’ “No Limits Next” project. Management unveiled four new bars, totaling nearly 7,000-feet and able to accommodate more than 2,000 guests. The project features an expansive Belly-Up Bar along with a three-section Open Air Bar providing fans with an area to relax prior to on-track action, as well as one for those who prefer to wander from their seats.

The beer-and-wine bars are equipped with television monitors so fans won’t miss any racing. Attendees also will be able to enjoy extra storage space and leg room with the addition of drink rails throughout the grandstands.

NASCAR Nation is fiercely pro-military, a fact Ramage acknowledged by his attention to the personnel stationed at Fort Hood, a U.S. Army post located near Killeen, Texas, halfway between Austin and Waco.

On Friday, Faber’s team invited the public to check out the latest in Army equipment on display _ a 70-ton M1A3 Abrams Tank and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle along with soldiers from across the Army explaining the latest technology. The vehicles are on display throughout the weekend between Gates 1 and 2 outside the Speedway.

The Army also will help start Sunday’s festivities at approximately 2 p.m., (CDT), when nearly 40 soldiers will enlist at the start/finish line. The patriotic theme will continue when the 1st Cavalry Division Band will sing the National Anthem, a military color guard will bear the nations’ colors and the Army’s premiere heavy-lift helicopter _ the tandem-rotor CH-47 Chinook _ will conduct a flyover.

“One of the terms I came from is ‘de-couch’ _ the ‘de-couching effect,’^” Faber said. “In my years with AEG we always talked about how do you connect _ and it’s not only with the younger demographic _ but how do you connect with people, especially coming out of a global pandemic where people were shut-in their homes and probably got a comfort level of just watching sports and entertainment.

“I can tell you there is nothing like being at a live event. What we want to accomplish is creating an event that is in addition supplemental-complementary to the actual event. For example, Blake Shelton performed at NASCAR All-Star (in May); we have a Daughtry pre-race concert Sunday.

“So, people are coming out to watch NASCAR, the hard-core. And I don’t want to say the race is secondary because it’s not, it’s the core event of that day. But we’re giving people _ a younger demographic or a different demographic _ other reasons to come here besides just the race. It’s a full-day entertainment experience.”

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 25 2022
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